Movie leg­end walks among us

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Camp­bell Web­ster Camp­bell Web­ster is a writer and pro­ducer of en­ter­tain­ment events. He can be reached at camp­bell@camp­bell­web­

A few years ago I dis­cov­ered I am a ma­jor celebrity, at least in the view of one great lo­cal sketch co­me­dian, Gra­ham Put­nam. Celebrity comes to us all at some point in our lives, whether it be through a head ta­ble at a wed­ding, a lo­cal me­dia in­ter­view, or a stun­ningly pop­u­lar Face­book post­ing in­volv­ing a mov­ing, yet hi­lar­i­ous, pussy-cat photo.

My num­ber one fan, Gra­ham Put­nam, did not al­ways walk the streets of Char­lot­te­town in awe of me and my great­ness. In­deed, for the decade or two of our friend­ship/ac­quain­tance, a line which most re­la­tion­ships on the Is­land strad­dle, I was just some other schmo to Gra­ham. Just some guy on the street that, when he passed me by, we spoke for a minute or two, per­haps tak­ing enough time to quickly and ca­su­ally run down the rep­u­ta­tion of some nom­i­nal Is­land celebri­ties who had made it into this pa­per on that day.

And then it hap­pened. In one of th­ese en­coun­ters I ac­ci­den­tally re­vealed to Gra­ham that I had once been an ex­tra in the movie, Po­lice Academy 4, star­ring Steve Gut­ten­berg and Bob­cat Goldth­wait.

If you don’t re­mem­ber them, The Po­lice Academy movies were heroic com­edy ad­ven­tures, if heroic and com­edy are best de­fined as ap­peal­ing to the basest of comic sen­si­bil­i­ties of 12-year-old boys, which Gra­ham was at the time of Po­lice Academy 4’s re­lease.

Fart jokes, pants fall­ing down, re­lent­less sex­ual in­nu­endo and the low­est of low brow hu­mour drive all the jokes. And since I had ex­isted in that mag­i­cal uni­verse for a few sec­onds, as an ex­tra play­ing bas­ket­ball with Gut­ten­berg and Goldth­wait, who were ex­pert on-screen farters and pant-drop­pers, I was, and now am a ma­jor celebrity to Gra­ham.

So much so that now, when I pass Gra­ham on the street, his pupils ex­pand, and he ex­tends to me the def­er­ence to which I de­serve for hav­ing thrown a ball to a mi­nor star in a crappy movie for $11 an hour.

We all have power needs, my old friend Mau­reen Larkin once pointed out to me a few years af­ter I had ful­filled mine with my ap­pear­ance on the sil­ver-screen in a red bas­ket­ball jump suit in a crit­i­cally de­spised kid­die-com­edy.

How we ful­fil those power needs is what mat­ters, healthily or oth­er­wise. Wit­ness­ing last week’s cu­ri­ous sideshow of Hol­ly­wood celebrity Sean Penn’s Rolling Stone in­ter­view of the world’s big­gest drug dealer, “El Chapo,” is an out-sized ex­am­ple.

For it turned out that the bil­lion­aire who is both a folk hero and a de­spised crim­i­nal, and one enor­mous celebrity, wanted more: He wanted Sean Penn and Hol­ly­wood to make a fea­ture film of his life, pre­sum­ably to fill some need for even more power. Run­ning around on a bas­ket­ball court with B-list ac­tors would clearly not have been enough for ei­ther of them.

Some egos, it seems, are tem­pered by noth­ing, and just need to be fed-and-fed, mak­ing meals of any­thing, and any­body in their path. A lit­tle more Greek mythol­ogy might have saved El Chapo and El Seano from this mis­fire, in par­tic­u­lar the lessons of the leg­end of Icarus per­ish­ing be­cause of his ego­tis­ti­cal jour­ney took him too close to the sun. We are all made of wax in the end.

The Is­land, and those we pass on the street in any small con­stituency, may save many of us from th­ese per­ils, for the sim­ple fact that the de­tails of each of our lives are known to so many. This lack of anonymity is lousy on one level, of course, but also celebrity en­dow­ing on an­other level. Each of our mo­ments of hu­mil­i­a­tion and ac­com­plish­ment are known far and wide by our Is­land ac­quain­tances/friends, all of which adds up up to a mi­nor celebrity sta­tus.

We are all a some­body. You are. I am. Gra­ham Put­nam is. And th­ese day, oddly enough on the Is­land, Steven Gut­ten­berg, not so much. At least on the Is­land.

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